By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
July 17, 2008 - The new state system of tracking individual students to determine a more accurate dropout rate is also a step toward helping those who have left school and preventing others from leaving, officials say. Behind each dropout statistic is the narrative of an education that derailed. But these independent-study students at the Alternative Education and Work Center in Hollywood are on their way to turning things around. The center enrolls students who complete most of their work on their own and then come in for tests and help.
The program, which is intended for high school-age students, is part of Hollywood Community Adult School, which is managed by the Los Angeles Unified School District. The students either dropped out or are considered at great risk of dropping out.
Name: Kimberly Marquez
Residence: Atwater Village
High school: Marshall
Story: "Marshall High always had the best intentions, but it's hard to keep track of all those students. I was just a bit of a wild one. I got drunk at school too often. I enjoyed doing a lot of other stuff more than going to school: ditching, drugs, alcohol. I was a meth user. Most of my friends were. [Two friends have died; she's not certain of the circumstances.] If it wasn't for this program, I don't think I'd ever consider college. [With] the one-on-one attention, it wasn't as easy to sneak away. They make you grow up. They make you responsible."
Note: Marquez graduated in June 2007 and now works as a teaching assistant at the center.
Name: Leslie Lopez
Residence: South Los Angeles
High school: Hollywood
Story: "In the 11th grade, I got pregnant and I started feeling sick. [The family had moved from Hollywood to the Watts area, but she tried to continue at Hollywood High -- a 45-minute bus ride.] I had a really bad pregnancy. I'd get dizzy a lot and wouldn't be able to read my books. I was behind in credits and my age was a concern to the school. I thought about giving up."
Goals: Saving to move in with her boyfriend, attend college and pursue a career in computer drafting.
Name: Angel Yos
High school: Fairfax
Story: "My parents had new jobs that required me to help them, starting when I was 13. I had to take care of my brothers and help Dad maintain the store. And we also did swap meets. . . . I had so much responsibility that was bestowed upon me. All that work I had to do at school plus all the work I had to do at home. It distorted me inside. At school, I was just purely not doing my work. I'd go to classes and sleep or talk to friends. I wanted to have fun with them. They said, 'Skip school. It won't really hurt you.' On the contrary, it did hurt me a lot. It took the school a while to catch on. They didn't even notice how weird it was to show up one day and not another, or miss a week. [When the school called home,] I would delete messages before my parents saw them. . . . I did consider dropping out."
Goals: Attend college, major in political science and learn the business of the music industry.
Name: Jasmin Alas
High school: Fairfax
Story: "In middle school, you name it, I did it: meth, marijuana. I hung out with people way older. [But she started going to church and changing her behavior.] I had gotten myself away from taking the wrong path in life. I didn't want to go to parties or hang out or drink. I became an outsider with my friends. . . . It was like a lot of peer pressure. It got to the point that I just didn't show up for school. The work I had no problem with. It was getting up in the morning and going to school. I would tell my mom I didn't want to go. The doctor told her I was depressed. I probably went like once a week. [She once had been a good student. Late last year, when catching up seemed impossible, she quit entirely.] I didn't show up. I failed everything. [At the center in Hollywood,] it just felt different than any other school. They made the effort. They would say little things like 'How is your day?' They made me feel so comfortable coming here. . . . My old friends, they're either pregnant or have kids -- every single one. I'm not lying. Most of them they just didn't finish high school."
Goals: College, manage a business.